Design Observer

About
Books
Job Board
Newsletters
Archive
Contact



Topics

Advertising
Aid
Architecture
Art
Books
Branding
Business
Cities / Places
Community
Craft
Culture
Design History
Design Practice
Development
Ecology
Economy
Education
Environment
Film / Video
Food/Agriculture
Geography
Global / Local
Graphic Design
Health / Safety
History
Ideas
Illustration
Industry
Info Design
Infrastructure
Interaction Design
Internet / Blogs
Journalism
Landscape
Magazines
Media
Motion Design
Museums
Music
Obituary
Photography
Planning
Poetry
Politics / Policy
Popular Culture
Preservation
Product Design
Public Art
Reputations
Science
Social Enterprise
Sports
Sustainability
Technology
Transportation
TV / Radio
Typography
Urbanism


Posted 02.18.13 | PERMALINK | PRINT

Steven Heller

Child Labor



Vintage ad for the Addressograph, about 1945

I got my very first job was when I was 13 years old (and only eligible for temporary working papers) in the advertising department of Bergdorf Goodman in New York. You’d think I was a prodigy, but that’s not true. A friend of the family — a buyer for Bergdorf’s — got me hired on Saturdays to work the Addressograph. Among other things, this was the machine used to create “charge plates.” Before plastic credit, consumers carried card-sized metal, not unlike dogtags, from which an impression of one's’ name and address were printed on invoices. 

I was hired to input the names, which were embossed on the plates. I lasted two days, before the boss-lady realized I reversed many of the letters. What’s more, I had not yet learned the fine craft of touch typing, so I slowly produced one plate every five minutes or so. (The norm was one every 20 seconds). I was asked to resign, and was then offered a stock boy job instead, but after this white-collar assignment, I wasn’t about to go blue.

Thanks to my Mother (who worked as a buyer for major department stores) I was offered another job in the advertising agency for Russ Togs. The owner of the agency asked if I could do “comps,” whatever that was. I said yes, and was put to work comping an ad concept (Russ Togs had great advertising with the slogan Russsssssssssss). Sounds good, right? Wrong! I was 13 years old, and didn’t know how to sketch anything other than a poorly rendered superhero. Imagine the shock on the office manager’s face when after a few hours laboring at my drawing board she saw the mess that I was making of Russ Togs. They didn’t have to fire me: I simply didn’t show up the next day.

Assuming that advertising wasn’t my calling — but the fashion business was — my mom wrangled me a job at Melody Knitwear in the front office as an adding machine operator. My job was to enter the number of units sold onto invoices. The company was doing well before my arrival. Needless to report, my number skills were on a par with my comping abilities. This time I was told I had a choice: firing or stock boy-ing. I chose the latter (I had just turned 14 and realized pride could come later). My task was to read on the manifest how many lots of sweaters were to be boxed, stuff the boxes with garments, tape and address them. That job I did pretty well.

Three years later I became an art director. Go figure.

—Steven Heller

Share This Story

Archives





























DESIGN OBSERVER JOBS





RECOMMENDED SITES

5B4: Photography & Books
@Issue: Journal of Design
A Bit Late
About Last Night
Accidental Mysteries
Ace Jet 170
AIGA
Airbag Industries
Alltop
Amass Blog
Arch Daily
Architect's Newspaper
Architecture & Web Art
Architizer
Archlog
Art of the Title
Artkrush
Arts & Letters Daily
Arts Journal
Arts Monitor
Athanasius Kircher Society
Base Now
Below The Fold
BibliOdyssey
BldgBlog
Blue Pencil
Book Design Review
Boxes and Arrows
Brainiac
Brand New
Cameron Moll
Chekhov's Mistress
City of Sound
Click Opera
Container List
Core77
Coudal Partners
Creative Review Blog
CultureGrrl
Daily Heller
Daily Scrapbook
Dapper Alchemist
Death by Architecture
Deep Glamour
Design Altruism Project
Design Assembly
Design Institute UMN
Design Mind
Design Thinking
Design Thinking
Design Writing Research
Designer's Review of Books
Designers & Books
Designers' Lunchbox
Dexter Sinister
Dull Tool Dim Bulb
Dwell
Emdashes
Errol Morris
Eye Magazine
Eye Magazine Blog
George Salter Archive
GongBlog
Good Magazine Info Graphics Library
Goodlifer
Grain Edit
Grant McCracken
Graphic Journey
Hermenautic Circle
Hilobrow
I Love Typography
Icon Magazine
If It's Hip, It's Here
Information is Beautiful
Jason Santa Maria
Kottke.org
Limited Language
Log
Mark Lamster
Matt Jones
McSweeneys
Merge
Michael Johnson
Motion Design
New Critics
News Designer
NextDesign Institute
Noisy Decent Graphics
Nussbaum on Design
Oh Boym!
One Piece
Panopticist
Penguin Blog
Pidgin Magazine
Pixel Points
Poignant Frog
Poynter Online
Pressthink
Princeton Architectural Press
Pruned
Putting People First
Quipsologies
Rare Book Room
Richard Devereaux
RotoVision Publishers
Sartorialist
Social Design Zine (Italy)
Sodaplay
Spurgeonblog
Strange Harvest
Strange Maps
Subtraction
Swiss Legacy
Swiss Miss
The Drawbridge
The Next American City
The Nonist
The Pattern Foundry
Things Magazine
Tomorrow Museum
Type Neu
TypeCulture
Typographica
Typotheque
Unbeige
Varoom Magazine
Veritas et Venustas
Very Short List
Visual Culture